5 Mistakes Product Managers Make and How to Fix Them in Practice

Everything seems black and white in theory, but in practice, it’s not always so easy to implement what you have learned

We believe in cutting through unwanted things and heading straight towards the goal by putting theory into practice.

Sometimes you can’t afford your Product Managers to make many mistakes. Certainly, it’s not healthy for the organization but we will tell you how to fix it. By giving more importance to people than process and creating cross-collaboration opportunities within the organization, one can build a solid, successful product.

5 Mistakes Product Managers Make and How to Fix Them in Practice

1. Wagile — Waterfall + Agile = Bad Times

  • What does it look like?
    • Senior stakeholders hand down features → Product team estimates → Project plan agreed → Execute in 2 week sprints → Release after n sprints.
  • Why is it bad?
    • No validation of problem, no user feedback, waste of time & effort, product doesn’t solve user need, demoralised team, no data or metrics.
  • How to fix it?
    • Turn feature specs into problem statements, talk to customers/users, empower team, educate stakeholders.

2. The Roadmap Delusion — Disconnection between product and business

  • What does it look like?
    • Senior stakeholders generate roadmap, Product Manager generates based on feedback, Mapping of features vs time.
  • Why is it bad?
    • Extremely inaccurate, used to hold teams accountable, lots of time/effort to generate, they focus on features and not problems.
  • How to fix it?
    • Make sure you’ve a technical person with you, Business Model is key, Use OKRs (Objective Key Results), re-educate stakeholders, it’s okay to have “possible features”, validate with customer development.

3. We. Are. Product! — Everyone builds products.

  • What does it look like?
    • Product team “knows” what it’s doing, rest of the company is not involved, both sides siloed.
  • Why is it bad?
    • Isolated product team, product quality suffers, business suffers, company is missing out on great ideas – people usually on the frontline give great information on how customers use the product and the design.
  • How to fix it?
    • Company-wide updates, SCRUM reviews, regular focused updates (2-way communication, developers need to know what’s going on), gather problems and be aware of the business context, cross-company collaboration (ideation and brainstorming with people who have different roles, for different perspectives).

4. All in one! — Biting off more than you can chew

  • What does it look like?
    • Let’s fix the process, let’s talk about process, lots of debate/argument, nothing happens.
  • Why is it bad?
    • Major frustration, lack of engagement, unrealistic expectations.
  • How to fix it?
    • Be iterative, create a meta-backlog,  focus on one problem or what truly makes sense. Caveat – down tools → clear air → create MVP process → proceed.  

5. Process Nazis — People > Process

  • What does it look like?
    • Let’s do process, let’s start scrum/Kanban, or a combination of Wa-Scrum-Ban, no discussion/no feedback, just do it.
  • Why is it bad?
    • Process is a tool, people are devalued, feedback is ignored.
  • How to fix it?
    • People > Process, have an open-minded culture, educate people and not vilify them. Caveat – avoid democracy, it’s not about the majority rule (it’s not what the majority thinks but it’s about the best solution), critically assess, doing the right thing can be hard.

This article is based on Navin Nair‘s talk “Put Theory into Practice”. You can watch the complete product talk on Youtube.

Have you made any of these mistakes? Would you share any additional advice?

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